With the win over Holy Cross on Wednesday night the Army Black Knights are 4-1 in their last five games and peaking at just the right time in the season. That 4-1 could easily be 5-0 given that the one loss was by a single point to Loyola in double overtime, but as expected the return from injury of Tanner Plomb and Kevin Ferguson has boosted the Black Knights immeasurably. Army is now up to sixth in the Patriot League standings and could conceivably finish as high as fourth by winning out. That makes this game with Navy (currently fourth in the PL) even more important than the usual meeting between the two teams.
That being said here is a look forward to the three keys for the game on Saturday:
1. Kevin Ferguson gets his double-double
Kevin Ferguson has been absolutely unstoppable for Army since getting over his ankle injury that slowed him down around the turn of the year. While most were expecting Tanner Plomb to get back in the lineup and lead the Black Knights, it has really be Ferguson and his string of double-doubles that has pushed Army forwards. Against Holy Cross the senior center went off for a career high 25 points and his usual double figure rebound total (13). This was Ferguson’s fifth consecutive double-double and if he can dominate in the paint against Navy and get his stats then Army will win.
2. Stretch the Navy defense
Navy has been one of the best defensive teams in the Patriot League, and the NCAA, all season long. The Mids lead the Patriot League in scoring defense (63.2) and field goal percentage defense (.410), but lately there have been cracks in that defense and it has cost Navy games. On Wednesday night the Mids lost 77-74 to Lehigh primarily because the Mountain Hawks were on fire from behind the arc. Lehigh scored 14 three-pointers in the contest and if Army can get Kyle Wilson or Plomb hot from downtown then Navy seems to be having trouble stopping shooters at this point in time. The Midshipmen’s last three opponents have shot 54-percent on 34-of-63 shooting from three-point range in their last three home games, all of which were losses.
3. Slow down Tilman Dunbar
Navy has plenty of threats on the court, but the engine that makes it all go is point guard Tilman Dunbar. Dunbar is averaging 11.0 points, 3.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game this year. He has had 98 assists to just 72 turnovers, putting him on the positive side of that ratio for the fourth consecutive season. At 5-foot-10 and 163-pounds the senior is not going to blow anyone away with his measurables, but he is a consistent presence on the court and he is the one that Navy looks to when the game is getting tough. If Army can harass Dunbar with defensive pressure and force him to make mistakes and take bad shots then the Black Knights will be in prime position to win the game.